Professor of Comparative Literature
He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Free University Berlin and at the University of Toulouse, and has been the director of Hampshire's semester-long study abroad program. He has published widely on nineteenth- and twentieth-century European literature; on biography and literary portraiture; on testimony, Holocaust literature, and Berlin Jewish history; and on debates about education. His book Closed Encounters: Literary Politics and Public Culture was published by the University of Minnesota Press.
Some of his most recent publications are "Beckett in Time of Crisis," "Totem and Taboo: The Perverse Writings of Ka-Tzetnik 135633," "The Lure of the Archive: The Atlas Projects of Walid Raad," "Migrant Visions: The Scheunenviertel and Boyle Heights, Los Angeles," “Twemlow’s Abyss,” "Narrative Tensions: The Eyewitness and the Archive,” "Falling Under an Evil Influence," "The Death and Discontents of Theory," and "Sociable Robots und das Posthumane." He is currently working on a study of the archive in contemporary thought and art.
His teaching interests include 19th- and 20th-century comparative literature (German, French, British), critical theory, Holocaust Studies, modernism, Jewish Studies, psychoanalysis, and philosophy.
Shortly after their arrival in February and before the start of the German semester in the beginning of April, students enroll in an intensive German language course (5 days/week and 4 hours/day) in accordance with their German language proficiency at a leading foreign language academy in Berlin. With the start of the German semester students may choose to continue their language study by enrolling in a language course offered at the Freie University in Berlin (4 to 6 hours/week).
Although often writing in traditional forms such as the short story, the anecdote, or the allegory, each of the writers we will discuss raises difficult problems of interpretation insofar as they disturb the conventional limitations of their genre. Our emphasis will be the exploration of the "disturbances" that these writers create; the uneasiness which demands that we search again, read again, and continue to question our presuppositions not only about literature, but concerning our entire view of the world. Readings may include Joyce, Kafka, Stein, Woolf, Beckett, Schulz, Borges, Baldwin, O'Connor, and Murakami.
The problem of evil won't go away. Despite repeated attempts to dismiss the concept of evil as archaic and outmoded, it continues to haunt contemporary culture and thought. In literature, evil becomes a particularly prominent theme in the 19th century. Is literature intimately--or necessarily--connected to transgression, and to evil? We will explore 19th- and 20th-century literary as well as philosophical texts that take up the fascination with evil, and the difficulties thinkers have in confronting and making sense of it. Readings will include writers such as Kleist, Baudelaire, Bronte, Stevenson, Nietzsche, Wells, Bataille, Arendt, Highsmith, and others.
More than 70 years after the end of World War II, the mass atrocity of the Holocaust continues to provoke a tremendous amount of responses. Scholarship, literature, film, memorials, and museum exhibitions continue to proliferate, and there are now well over 50,000 video interviews with survivors. In this course we will explore the difficulties of grappling with the Holocaust, and of representing mass violence. How do different types of materials--historical studies, wartime diaries, documentary and feature films, graphic novels and fictional accounts, interviews with survivors and writings by perpetrators, memorials at sites of Holocaust violence and far removed from Europe--provide us with windows into understanding what happened then? What kinds of representations can still make us feel or think something new? Literature will be a central focus, but readings will include history and philosophy, and we'll look at films, art, and memorials. We'll explore material from the 1940s to the present day, and from a broad range of countries.
In the nineteenth century, the novel becomes the dominant literary form. In this class, we will look at forms of power within the novel, and also examine the power of the novel in society. In particular, we will explore various quests for identity and purpose in a changing society, and examine the ambitions and contrasting social possibilities for the male and female protagonists. We will also consider such questions as the roles of gambling and speculation in modern society, and the transgressive violence of erotic desire against the conventions of the bourgeoisie. Readings will be primarily 19th-C. British and French novels, by writers such as Balzac, Bronte, Dickens, Flaubert, Eliot, and Zola.
Why are detective stories so popular? Why has literature about crime and detection been so fascinating for readers during the last 175 years? What do these stories reveal to us about cultural anxieties, fears of social disorder, and the possibilities of justice, and about narrative and plot? We will focus on the detective as a social phenomenon, as a literary convention, and as a reader (of texts and of the world). We will read "analytic" and "hard-boiled" detective stories, and critical essays exploring both the socio-cultural and formal aspects of detective fiction. We will watch films that adapt and develop the genre, and explore graphic novels as well. In addition to writing critical essays, students will have the opportunity to write their own detective story.